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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Mmmmmmmmmmmm soup.

Our month of winter has arrived and I’m craving a heartwarming and satisfying bowl of soup to savor the cool weather. A simple bowl of soup is often loaded with vitamin-rich vegetables, and can provide valuable fiber and complex carbohydrates.  These characteristics make soup well suited to today’s busy lifestyle – they evoke memories of slaving over a hot stove all day long, but that is no longer the case.


Homemade broths require a long time for simmering but they don’t require much work. It is not necessary to peel or trim vegetables for broth made from scratch because they will be strained out after cooking. Just wash them thoroughly before starting. However, there are a variety of products available that make it easy to make soup: canned broths are available with no-salt-added, low-sodium, low-salt and fat-free, and bouillon cubes, granules, and powdered mixes (with and without MSG) diluted according to package directions are also available, although they tend to be very salty.


Unlike some dishes, most soup recipes don’t have to be followed precisely. You can usually add a little more or less of what’s called for, or you can substitute or add similar ingredients. Making soup is a great way to use leftover meats, vegetables, rice, or pasta. Many soup recipes call for a variety of fresh herbs and spices. It’s helpful to tie the spices in a small bag made from cheesecloth, or just tie them together with a piece of butcher’s twine to easily remove after the soup is cooked.


It’s easy to keep soups low in fat, especially if you start with a fat-free broth or stock. Another effective method to remove fat from cooked soup is to chill it because the fat will rise to the top and harden, which makes it easy to lift and discard the solidified fat. Most soups taste even better when refrigerated a day or two because it allows the flavors to blend and intensify. Adding wine and other spirits will add flavor to the soup but no fat. Most of the alcohol and calories will evaporate during cooking and leave only the flavor behind.


If you’re not in the mood to make soup from scratch, even canned soups can be spiced up a little. For example, add some salsa to a can of cream of tomato soup. Or add some salsa to black bean soup and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Or to cream soups add a tablespoon of white wine or sherry to each serving.


For a complete meal, just serve bread and perhaps a salad along with a steaming mug of soup. In front of the fireplace. By candlelight. With soft music playing in the background (TV off). Ahhhh, soup.


Split Pea Soup

2 Tbsp. butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped peeled carrots

1-1/2 lbs. Smoked pork hocks

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

4 sprigs fresh oregano

4 sprigs fresh parsley

1-1/2 to 2 cups green split peas, rinsed

8 cups chicken stock (canned or homemade)


Melt butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrots. Saute vegetables about 8 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add pork, spices, peas, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low; simmer for about an hour and a half. Allow soup to cool.


Remove pork; cut pork off the bones and dice; add to soup and discard the bones. Puree about 5 cups of the soup in a blender and add it back to the pot for a chunkier soup; puree all of the soup for a creamier soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 4-6.


Tortilla Soup

2 Tbsp. butter

1 cup fresh corn kernels

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup onion, diced

1 cup celery, diced

1 cup carrots, diced

1/2 cup roasted poblano chiles, diced

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

1 Tbsp. chile powder

4 sprigs fresh oregano

1-1/2 cups diced tomatoes

4 cups chicken stock

1 bunch chopped cilantro

1 cup cooked chicken, diced

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups tortilla chips, broken into pieces

optional garnish: 1 cup diced avocado, 1 cup crumbled queso fresco


Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the corn, garlic, onion, celery, carrots, and chiles and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent. Stir in the cumin, chile powder, and oregano. Add the tomatoes, stock, cilantro, and chicken, bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


To serve, put some broken pieces of tortilla chips in the bottom of each soup bowl, ladle soup over. Garnish each bowl with a tablespoon each of diced avocado and cheese if desired. Serves 8-10.


Red Chile Chowder

3 Tbsp. butter

4 cups fresh corn kernels

6 cloves minced garlic

1 large red onion, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup roasted poblano chile, diced

2 Tbsp. chile powder

4 Tbsp. flour

4 cups milk

1 cup half and half

Salt and freshly ground pepper


Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the corn, garlic, onion, celery, red pepper, and chiles; cook for about 8-10 minutes; stir in chile powder and flour, making sure to mix it well. Add the milk and half and half, bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serves 4-6.


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